Friday, February 26, 2010

Vocabulary Lesson

os 1 n. pl. ra
  • A mouth or an opening.
os 2 n. pl. os·sa
  • A bone.
As regular readers know, I kind of like when I discover I know something Joe does not. I was working a word puzzle this morning while having my coffee. I needed a two letter word that ended in s, so I asked Joe how to spell os. He said he'd never heard of the word.

I said, "I think it means mouth or opening."

He said, "It should mean bone."

I guess we both were right. But to pat myself a bit more on the back, I have to add that had I not been familiar with the "mouth or opening" meaning, I, too would have guessed "bone", as in osteo.

But here's a little flaw in my thinking. I love words and trying to find patterns and roots and stuff. So as I'm thinking of other os words I know, I thought, "Osmosis. That must be os (opening) + mosis (motion). Therefore, motion through an on opening." Makes sense, right?

But still wrong. That one is apparently from the Greek osmos to push or thrust. No mouth or opning involved. Sigh.

I always wanted to study Greek and Latin. "Had I ever had the opportunity, I should have been a true proficient."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hee, hee!

I mentioned today to John that he was needing another haircut. He responded, "No, no, please no." I asked what the big deal was. His response, "I want my hair to be like Joe Hardy's."

Anyone want to guess what DVD we've had from the library?

Gotta love it!

New Fun

OK, I confess, I'm on a bit of an exercise rebellion. Not a big one. But with the longer days, I'm craving outdoor activity. The exercise DVDs are not inspiring me. I'm almost ready to start walking in the morning before the kids are up. It's light at 6:30 now. But it's still cold. Yesterday was 20 below; and by the time the kids got on the bus at a little after 7:00, it was actually colder yet at 23 below. So, yeah, I'm probably not going to race out there for an early morning walk.

But the kids and I have some new toys. Thanks to a generous long-term loan (really, by the time this family is done with them, there probably won't be much left...) we now have several sets of cross country skis. We have two complete sets and parts of others we can add to when we get to Fargo or Grand Forks for a thrift store day.

So in keeping with celebrating the lengthening days, after we got back from piano lessons today, Elsie and Clara tried out the girls' set. I got the littler ones bundled and headed out myself.

Clara skied first, and she had already handed the skis to Elsie and donned her snowboots. By the time I got out there, they were already 1/4 mile down the field south of our place, heading toward one of their favorite "forts". John and Stella and I headed out. I haven't cross country skied in years and even then not often. So it was really a learning experience. I didn't know how far I'd go, but the snow mobile tracks headed south, so I went that way too.

Soon we also were nearly to the fort. This was, I must confess, after a few falls. Yes, one of which was a nice noodle-leg, all tangled-up spill, just as a car was passing on the highway. I hope you had a good laugh whoever you are!

I wasn't sure the little ones should head out that far at that time of day, but they did well and didn't want to head back. It was probably in the 20s (above) at that time and the wind was actually calm. A rare thing around here. John and Stella don't get to go to any of the "forts" often, so it's a real treat when they get to.

When we got there I found Elsie sitting on a bolder in her stocking feet. "Clara wanted to ski while I rested and her boots are too small for me." OK...

I told the little ones I'd go around the fort once and then we'd head home. The sun was beginning to head down and it doesn't take long in February once it begins.

As I was returning to the fort, to get the little ones, Elsie was hollering to Clara to hurry up and Clara was stuck. So by the time I helped her out and then fell again myself and couldn't get my skis back in and eventually got rolling, it was getting somewhat dusky. "Hurry Mike Mulligan, hurry! There isn't much time left.

We raced home and guess what? I got to move my ticker 45 minutes! yeah! And it was work. The exercise, that is, not moving the ticker. I can feel lots of heretofore unidentified bundles of muscle. I hope the weather stays nice and the wind calm. I hope I get some more use out of these skis before winter is over. I had kind of given up on meeting my ticker goal, but with a few more longish ski trips, I just might make it. Thank you Sharon!

Oh, I might add that I had put an older child in charge of the littlest two while I did all this. I will let him remain nameless. Oops...I guess I just gave it away. Louisa was away this evening and got home a few minutes before we got back. The first things she said when I got in the door, "Just so you know Mom, when I got in, Inge and Donna were both playing in the toilet water." Grrr.

So there's the rub. How to get minutes on my ticker without letting the household slide into the toilet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For Char

It gets to the really good parts at a little after 3:30.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weird Coincidence

This is not at all important, but...

After hearing a certain couple talk about their Mad Men foray, I requested the first season from the library. I don't often request an entire season, since it involves so much viewing time, but our librarian, knowing our somewhat infrequent viewing habits, will often extend our loan time to give us time to get through an entire season without having to perpetually renew our selection. But, alas, since Mad Men already had another hold on it, she was unable to accommodate us. It is due Thursday; we've watched a single episode. We probably will not get a chance to view more. But it can always be requested again at a less busy time of life. Is there one?

But here is the weird thing. As I said in my last post, the kids and I recently watched My Fair Lady. One of my favorite songs from the movie is "On The Street Where You Live". The actor is Jeremy Brett, but the dubbed vocals are apparently done by Bill Shirley. The voice kind of reminded me of Johnny Mathis or Tony Bennett, the voices both of whom I'm very fond. Such deep, rich tones and controlled vibrato.

So here we are tonight, watching Mad Men, and in the closing scene the big powerful Madison Avenue ad exec comes home to his waiting wife and kids. As he tucks the blanket around his sleeping children's chins, the background song is "On the Street Where You Live", this time, sung by Vic Damone & Percy Faith, whoever they are. (Sorry if you're a fan, but, well, I'm not really a music head.) It did strike me as odd, though, that a mere three nights ago, I might have recognized the song and been able to sing along a few phrases, perhaps. But I'm quite sure I would not have associated it with the show, My Fair Lady.

When I pointed out that it was Freddy's song from My Fair Lady, You know what Joe said? He asked if it was Johnny Mathis singing.

So in case anyone's curious, here are some other singers and or songs of the genre I really like. You'll have to look up your own audio clips or videos. Nat King Cole, nearly anything (I don't like "A Blossom Fell" for some reason); Roger Wittaker, "The Last Farewell"; Julie London, "Fly me to the Moon"; Patty Paige, "Tennessee Waltz"; Frank Sinatra, "Moon River" and others; and it's kind of morbid but I like "Green, Green Grass of Home", I'm not sure which singer.

Since I mentioned Johnnie Mathis earlier, this is my very favorite oldie.

Although, I guess "Chances Are" is pretty high up there, too. Ah, how does one decide?

Girls' Night Out and My Fair Lady

When I changed my ticker this morning (yes, the very same ticker that doesn't move as quickly as it's supposed to...) I found an ad for Harley Davidson Girls' Night Out Garage Party. I don't happen to have a Harley, nor have I even driven a motor cycle. But I can dream just as well as the next person.

The kids and I recently watched the old My Fair Lady, with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. I think there was a similar line in the movie, "I can dream just as well as the next person." Maybe I'm imagining it. I can't think where it occurred. Just sounds familiar.

I was not aware of all the various people who have played and sang for the part of Eliza. Apparently, in the movie, her singing voice was dubbed at least for some of the songs, by Marni Nixon. One of the videos of "Wouldn't it be Loverly" that I found had the undubbed version with Audrey Hepburn singing it. It makes me wonder why they dubbed it and if they dubbed all the songs or just some.

Apparently, Julie Andrews was Eliza in the original Broadway production. A Julie Andrews fan has compiled a neat slide show with her voice and snapshots from the Broadway production. It's really a neat slice of history. In her comments on YouTube, she bemoans the fact that she was "born in the wrong decade" to see Julie Andrews perform. I can understand her sentiment.

But I totally get a kick out of all my kids singing these old songs. We'd previously seen Oklahoma, Sound of Music, and Camelot. I think we'll get Fiddler on the Roof next. Sorry Joe.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Library Grab Bag

As I'm reading on-line news or blogs or doing some various research I often will com across a reference to a book with which I'm not familiar. Or to a book with which I'm familiar but haven't yet read. Usually when this happens I immediately go to my bookmarks and open up my library catalog page or if the books is more obscure, also the MnLink statewide library page. I simply type in the title and request the book to be delivered to my local library. I just love this system. What a luxury!

Generally I get to the library once a week, but not always. If the book I request is immediately available, it is usually ready and waiting for me when I get to the library each Thursday. But occasionally a book takes several weeks or months to arrive.

Because of this, it's always a little adventure to see what has come in each week. Unless I check the incoming page of my library account on a regular basis, I don't know until I get to the there, what is waiting for me.

This is always fun. But often, it also includes a bit of frustration. The source of said frustration? Dingbat that I am, I often cannot remember the context in which I've requested one or another of the books I get. It's kind of like a grab bag. I don't know what I will be getting and sometimes, I don't really know the purpose of the items included. I should keep a little data base with the requests I've made and a little comment on why I've requested it.

I usually try to read the mystery books I receive. Sometimes I figure it out during the read, other times I store away up the knowledge and hope it relates to something some day.

Last week, I got The Old Regime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Toqueville. I do remember requesting this one, only because on the original web site that cited it, the title was in French, L'Ancien regime et la revolution. I had to run it through a translator tool; and when I still couldn't find it, I had to do a general google search on the title and hope for an page that included both English and French titles. Ancien does not translate to ancient, you see, but to old. And I surmise that in French one would not have to specify to which revolution one was referring.

At any rate, I do remember requesting this book, if only because of the difficulty I encountered. What I don't remember is why!?! Why did I want to read it? What was I researching?

As per usual, I'm reading it anyway and quite enjoying it. I keep finding interesting things to write about here on my blog. But, alas, by the time time I get time at my computer, I'm either unable to find the citation I seek; or I've forgotten the relevance I previously saw in it.

So you will just have to request the book yourselves and find your own relevant snippets.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Favorite Black Bean Recipe

Black Bean Menocal
  • 3 c black beans
Soak overnight (add 1/4 c whey to the soaking water if you have some. This helps with the pre-digesting of the beans). Rinse, drain, cook until soft.
  • 3 large green peppers, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
Puree until smooth in blender or food processor. Transfer to large cooking pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Puree one cup of the beans and add to cooking pot. Add the rest of the beans with cooking liquid, unless they are swimming in liquid. Drain remaining beans and add to cooking pot.
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 c sugar
Add to cooking pot and simmer 1 hour uncovered, stirring frequently.
  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c port
Add. Simmer another 30 minutes.

This tastes best made a day ahead and reheated. Use it as a side dish, poured over rice, or as a chip dip. It's very versatile.

I've also made it without pureeing the vegies and beans or without all the separate additions of everything. I've also cooked it in a crock pot, adding everything at the beginning. But don't add the sugar and vinegar until the beans are tender, as acid and sugar prevent beans from softening properly.

Another Culinary Adventure

When I was young, we visited my Dad's uncle in Quartzite, AR. His Mexican American wife made us authentic tamales and I was hooked. I crave them. I order them any chance I get to eat at a restaurant that serves reasonably authentic Mexican cuisine. And I've often imagined whipping up a batch myself. But until last week, that experience stayed firmly in my dreams.

During 2008, I followed Stephnie O'Dea as she made and posted a new (mostly Gluten Free) crock pot recipe each day for a year. After seeing her post on crock pot tamales, I bought some corn husks. So that would be what, 14 months ago? Although Stephanie's post definitely removed the initial apprehension over trying something this big, I still had to build myself up to it. Just a little while...

To make the tamales, I consulted both the recipe at Stephanie's crock pot blog and the detailed descriptions at Son of the South.

Here's what I did.

On Monday, we had a turkey dinner.

On Wednesday, I cooked up about half of the left over turkey in my large crock pot. I would say it was about 3 quarts of turkey pieces. To this I added:
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs salt (Or to taste. I started with 1 tbs and we kept adding, so I'm not sure of the final quantity.)
  • 4 dried chilis, broken into bits, seeds removed (be sure to wash well after)
  • 1 package frozen corn. I think it was about a quart.
I also added several ladles full of the broth from the turkey frame that was simmering along side. Again, this is just a guess thing. Maybe 3 cups by the time all was done.

I kept this cooking on low throughout the day and into Thursday, adding liquid as necessary and kept tasting and tweaking. It didn't really start tasting right until after Thursday afternoon. Until then, it just tasted like turkey with a SW flair. But eventually the flavors began to blend. If I had started from scratch as recommended on the Son of the South page, perhaps it would not have taken so long.

Since I'm fortunate enough (?) to live in an area with a very large walk-in freezer all winter, I set the crock pot in the garage overnight.

Bright and early Friday morning, anticipating a prompt start right after breakfast chores, I began soaking the corn husks. I did this in my old 3.5 qt crock pot insert. I poured it about 2/3 full of boiling water and about 1/3 tap water. Then I stuck in a bag of corn husks. They were a bit too tall for the crock, so I covered with foil to hold the steam in and then flipped them end to end throughout the morning. I added more hot water as needed.

As I began to assemble the ingredients I would need, I realized I was nearly out of Masa flour. Thank you, Joe, for running into Thief River. Luckily we needed a few other things, too. Otherwise the tamale meat would have gone into the real freezer until a later date.

On Friday afternoon, the kids and I cleaned up from lunch and began the tamale making process. I measured the Masa flour into a large bowl and then Sophie added the spices And mixed it together. I think Elsie added the lard and cut it in with her fingers.

I warmed up the broth (I had some beef broth in the fridge) which I poured in while Elsie stirred.

It got a little bit tough to mix in, so I finished that step for her.

Here follow the ingredients I used for the Masa dough:
  • About 2 lbs masa flour (I think we used 7.5 c)
  • 3 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
Mix this together.
  • 2 c lard
Cut in with your fingers, working it in until crumbly.
  • 2 quarts warm broth
I just poured this in, but I think I will do it a cup at a time next time. It was somewhat cumbersome to mix properly. But once I was done, I brought the meat from the garage and was ready to roll.

Son of the South says the dough should resemble thick peanut butter. Stephanie describes a different test, but her dough is quite different, including baking powder for leavening.

We spread a think layer of dough on each corn husk.

This was by far the most tedious part. I envisioned all of us taking turns with the various tasks, but really the spreading was too difficult for most all of us. The kids all tried their hands at it, but soon tired of the putziness of this step. We spread them according to the Son of the South description, but with the added restriction of keeping them no longer than the crock pot is tall, since they would have to stand up straight during the cooking process.

After the dough was evenly spread we filled each with a dab of meat, lining it in a little heap along the center.

Then we carefully rolled the tamale, folded the end over and voi la. We propped the crock pot at an angle so we could lay the tamales in and end up with them all upright.

We filled both my big crock pot ( I think 5 qt) and my small one ( I think 3 qt).

I added just a thin layer of water to the bottom of the crockpot and cooked them on high for about 7 hours. After about 6, I propped the lids up with chopsticks. They were so steamy at the top that the dough at the open end was getting soggy.

The tamales at the edge were somewhat crunchy. The middle ones were great.

I plan try to find a pot in which I can steam them next time. (Perhaps a trip to Fargo ARC thrift store?)

I think I'll also make my meat from scratch just for the tamales. I will definitely make the filling ahead of time so the flavors can blend.

I think Ill also roll them with both ends closed. We'll see.

I had at least a third of the husks left and probably a third of the filling. But my crockpots were full and my dough was gone.

I served the finished product with taco toppings and my favorite black bean dish. The friends we invited over brought a green salad and it all made for excellent fare.

Kugel Update

The Rice Kugel from last week turned out pretty well. I think most of us liked it. I really liked the apple and cream cheese combination.

I will be making this again.

Beef Bone Broth

For information on the health benefits of bone broth, please see the linked articles at the Weston A. Price Foundation or Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Sally Fallon and others of the Weston A Price Foundation have already said anything I would say, and definitely better and more knowledgeably than I would. Kelly has great links and tips and her commenters often add useful and informative tips.

To make my nutrient rich bone broth, I fill up my large crock pot and roast the bones for a day on low. Then I add water and keep on low for several more days, continuing to add liquid as needed. Your broth will develop a scorched taste if the water to meat fat ratio is too low. (Yes, I learned this by experience). Sometimes I also add whey or vinegar with the initial water to leach even more minerals from the bones.

After several days, strain first through a colander, then through a few layers of cheesecloth, and finally through several layers of cheesecloth. At each straining, pour some boiling water through afterwards to get all the good stuff into your broth.

You may pick through the scraps you strain off and salvage the meat for use, but if you do, I suggest rinsing in boiling water afterwards. After cooking for several days, the bones are very crumbly and although it's probably immensely healthful I don't like that gritty texture, so I try to rinse most of it off. Depending upon the recipe, however, this grit is more or less noticeable.

I suppose one could remove the meat after the initial roasting and before the "stewing for days" part. I guess this is kind of obvious, but I've never done it. I wonder how that would effect the nutritional value of the broth. I'm guessing here, so don't quote me, but I think the nutritional value of the broth is from the gelatin and the minerals in the bone. The meat is your protein, which is just as good roasted for one day as it would be for several. Anyone have any knowledge on this?

Once you have your broth clarified, store it in your fridge. You can use it for anything that calls for broth or cooking liquid for a nutritional boost that avoids the additives in pre-packaged broths. You will have to add salt to taste, either after the broth is done cooking, or to each recipe. I usually wait and add it as I use the broth, since I don't always want equal saltiness in different recipes. Also, because the broth is quite concentrated, I usually dilute it with equal parts water, or to taste. Again, it depends upon the use to which I am putting it.

I don't have any hard facts on this, but it keeps quite awhile. As long as the fat layer is intact, it seems to keep indefinitely. But even after that layer is disrupted, I've used it for several weeks or even a month if I don't use it up. Use your own judgment. I've also stored it in the freezer in small portions anticipating cold and flu season.

I store my broth in a gallon jar, and I try to take a proportional amount of the fat with each use, so the fat lasts until the final drop of broth.

For a turkey or chicken carcass, I do the same thing. Take it right off the table and put it in my crock pot. Obviously, it will not need roasting first; just add liquid and simmer for several days.

To be really thrifty, some people keep an ice cream bucket in the freezer for any bones from the nightly cooking and table scraps. When they have a bucket full, they cook it all into a broth. I am not that thrifty. If the need arises, I know those scraps, too, can be put to use.

I plan to save some crumbly bones to put on my garden this spring, too. There must be a few remaining minerals in them. I think they would work in a compost system also, in place of bone meal, but be sure to rinse them if you don't want to draw undesired critters.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Letting Go

I have ten children, ages 1-16 1/2 at the time of this post. What a tremendous blessing. And responsibility. When I think that each of them is a person, a living soul who will either enjoy eternal life with our God throughout eternity or burn in hell, I am humbled. What a job. And one dare not fail.

A wise friend shared with me a quote recently that really sums up how I feel about parenting in today's world. Unfortunately, I can't quote verbatim, because I seem to have lost the e-mail. But it was something along these lines, since we live in a world that has largely rejected God, since so many are actively anti-Christian, we as parents need to gather our children to us and hold them close. Fill them with God's Word and hold them close.

That is really very much the reason we home school our children. There are many academic reasons a parent might decide to keep a child out of a traditional classroom, and of course those are part of the decision. Those reasons might be something like, I can tailor each child's learning to his or her level; I can give one on one time; there is flexibility for a child to pursue in depth, those things that capture his or her imagination; etc.

There are social reason to homeschool, such as children can participate in more non-school activities such as visiting the sick and elderly; starting their own home based business; learning the responsibility that comes with running a household; etc.

But the primary reason we decided to keep our kids home 12 years ago when Jeremy was 5, is that I couldn't figure out how I was to imbue this child with my values and beliefs when he was gone for several hours a day. Of course, in those days, kindergarten was still just couple of hours a day. But first grade was a full day. In the area in which we now live, the school bus comes at about 7:10 and does not drop the kids off in the evening until 4:30. Is a six year old child really filled up with all the Godly wisdom I can give him? Are those few hours in the evening enough to squeeze in the spiritual training necessary for salvation? I didn't feel that I would have enough time left with my children if they went to a traditional classroom school to accomplish this primary parental responsibility. "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Among homeschool moms the question sometimes arises when and under what circumstances we might feel the need to place a child in a traditional classroom. Some are most adamant about keeping their children home for the early years. Some parents are more concerned with the high school years with the increase in temptations and even physical danger. Some have academic concerns with high school aged kids and others feel they need a trained teacher to lay down the basics in the early years.

We each have been given different personalities and priorities and children with different needs. But for myself, I have always felt that if I could lay down a strong Christian foundation, I would not fear to let my children move to something different for their high school years. I don't think I fear the academic part of high school at home. I think we could handle that. But I have always responded, when asked, that we are homeschooling as long as it works; when it is no longer working, we will seek God's wisdom and see if there are other suitable options.

And that brings me to 2010. I now find myself with three children away from home for their school. Jeremy lives with his Grandparents and attends ECHO charter school. What a blessing! It is a great match for him. I hope Grandma and Grandpa survive.

Louisa and Matt are attending Red Lake County Central in Oklee. I am pleased with that decision also. I can't figure this one out, but there is some comfort in seeing them board the bus in the morning. I know they will encounter temptations and they will learn things that may be contrary to what they've been taught. But I am comfortable with their abilities to stand up to these things. I am also pleased that because of the homeschooling years we've spent together, we've developed a rapport that allows us to share the highs and lows of our days. We hear about the things that might be troubling them and we hear about the ways in which they've expressed their Christian faith and values throughout the day. We are still available to guide them in how they might best deal with the various encounters they have throughout the day. This also is a life skill that I wouldn't want them muddling through alone if they end up in a university dorm some day.

I pray daily that God increase the faith of my children and protect them from harm. Do I pray for an easy life for them? No. I was telling a couple of good friends the other day that when life is easy, it's too easy to forget about God. But I do pray for them that God be with them and strengthen them for the temptations He in His wisdom allows to come to them.

And I pray for my own parental wisdom to always make sound decisions for my children.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rice Kugel

Kugel. Hmm, interesting. Actually, Kugel really is. According to Wikipedia, Kugel "is a baked Jewish pudding or casserole most commonly made from egg noodles (lochshen kugels) or potatoes, served as a side dish." By scanning the wikipedia article and the wide variety of other recipes that come up on a google search, I learned kugel can be sweet or savory, a dessert or a side dish, based on bread, potatoes, noodles, and yes, even rice. I thought this onion one looked good.

I'm adapting my kugel from the noodle kugel recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook. That's a little tribute to Rod Dreher (the guy who irritates me every time I read something he wrote or hear him interviewed, but that's another post) and his idea of the Crunchy Con.

Getting back to Kugel, I replaced the noodles with cooked rice; the vanilla with almond extract, since I'm out of vanilla; and the bread crumbs in the topping with almond meal. Oh, and I doubled it, of course. We are using ours for breakfast this morning.

Here's what I did.

Rice Kugel
6 eggs, beat together with a wisk
3 c cottage cheese
1 1/2 c plain yogurt
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c honey
1 tbs honey
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
Mix these together well.

4 cooking apples, diced
8 c cooked rice
Add to the cheese and egg mix.

Pour into 2 greased 9x13 cake pans.
Topping: 1 c almond meal, 1/3 c brown sugar, mixed together. Sprinkle over the cake pans.

Dot each pan with 1/2 cube of butter

Bake uncovered 35 minutes at 375 F.

It's in the oven now. I'll let you know how we like it.

Oh, and if you use all organic and butter from grass fed cows and evaporated cane juice instead of the brown sugar, you can even call it an NT recipe. You could even use your own cream cheese from making whey. Or use whole grain rice and soak it over night...

But I didn't.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Caucus Day in Minnesota tomorrow

If you live in a caucus state, check your state website to determine your caucus dates and location, and plan to attend. It's a great way to have a little say about what happens in the government.

In Minnesota, the caucuses are scheduled tomorrow night at 7:00. See the Secretary of State page for details. Although I know where to caucus, I just checked it out to see how their finder tool does. It actually works! Yes, I am a bit amazed. Up until this very moment, I had yet to find anything on the web that gets our address in the right spot or our precinct, representatives, etc, correct. Kudos to whoever designed that search tool. (I just can't bring myself to credit it to Mark Richie...just a little residual grudge against the man.)

I'm going to caucus with other residents of Deer Park Township at the Pennington County Republican Party caucuses at Franklin Middle School in Thief River Falls.

I plan to vote for Tom Emmer in the straw pole.

Priorities and Time Management

I wrote this in the comment section of another blog I read. Since I ended up spending kind of a substantial amount of time writing it, I'm posting it here, too. Since it was in response to a question about time management, I thought it was fitting to use it twice.
Although I'm no "model student" when it comes to time management, I do have opinions on the subject. I have a large family, each with individual needs; and I need to balance these with my own desires and interests on a constant basis.

The most important aspect of time management is choice. Our lives today are filled with many things. Many, many things. Too many things. But each of us holds innate priorities as part of who we are. The challenge comes in making choices that accord with those priorities.

It is helpful to spend some time clarifying these things. Write down your life priorities in order of import. Then write down your short, medium and long term goals. Keep these lists in a handy corner of your mind. Pull them out throughout your days and weeks as needed. Constantly re-evaluate whether any given activity helps to fulfill the written priorities and goals

Each of us makes hundreds of choices each day without even realizing it. And we often get bogged down by things that, were we to think about it, are not aligned with our priorities. But if a person has clarified what is important and then has spelled out how his or her life goals fit those priorities, it is easier to eliminate those things that are extraneous. There will still be disappointment involved in letting go of some things. But the disappointment will be felt less if one can see how a given decision fits into a life plan.

Sometimes our life goals are too big for one lifetime. But again, when we have a set of priorities upon which to measure our goals, we can choose which of our many callings will appropriately fill the one lifetime we are given.

For instance, my priorities go something like this: God, family, friends in need, personal hobbies, social life.

My long term goals might be: be faithful, loving and giving to my spouse; raise children who hold to my Christian faith, have the skills needed to provide for themselves and their children, and are responsible citizens; keep reading and learning; maintain my well-being; pursue for myself various "to-do-before-I-die" things.

My medium goals would be along the lines of: homeschool my kids as long as I'm able, run an efficient home, live simply.

Daily goals are more mundane: make sure everyone has healthful meals and snacks, constantly evaluate our supply of hand-me-downs and second hand purchases to make sure each child has what they need, do some laundry, monitor the children's assigned chores, spend some time in the classroom helping the children as needed with their assignments, take some time for myself to exercise and write a little.

Each individual day will also include its unique goals: bigger, more sporadic household chores; piano or other music or dance lessons; sports activities; errands; fields trips and outings.

Be as detailed as suits your personality. I like to cross things out, so I even include things like brushing my teeth and making my bed. Other people feel bogged down with so many details and just write down the bigger stuff.

How do all these lists fit in with time management? First off, at a glance, I can see whether I've scheduled too much for a day. This is a definite skill that must be learned. Each of us operates at our own pace and energy level, and this seems to change with the days and seasons of our lives.

But on the bigger time management picture, if a child requests a certain privilege, when an opportunity arises that I'm really interested in for myself or one of my children, if a friend needs help, or whatever, I can refer back to my priorities and goals and determine whether or not to take on that "one more thing." I have an established rubric within which to measure all the various family activities in order to effectively manage my hours and days.

And (this is really important for me, because I have a tendency to beat myself up) for those times when it feels as though I've gotten NOTHING done, I can pull out my mental list of goals and priorities. I may not have accomplished any of my short term goals. But I can see that those moments spent comforting a child grieving over a broken toy, helping the children work out a disagreement, taking a meal to an elderly friend, stealing a few minutes (or even an entire day) for myself, or just plain being with my children and doing nothing, are important parts of the long term plan. As long as those long term goals are being worked toward, the time is not wasted, even when the day went differently than I might have planned.